As if beer goggles weren’t trouble enough, the alcohol you drink may be affecting more than your eyes. Learn about the impact throwing too many back can have on your mouth. Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with any fists being thrown at your teeth.
No one likes a buzzkill, especially when folks are in the midst of “showing teeth” (aka smiling!). But at DentaLux, we care about your dental care enough to tell you the truth about what liquor, wine and beer can do to a tooth. Don’t worry, we have some solutions too.
So sweet, it hurts
What’s the one thing on planet Earth that loves sugar more than a 5-year-old? Bacteria. What’s the one thing on planet Earth that has as much sugar as a 5-year-old’s basket of Halloween candy? Alcohol.
Bacteria lives by digesting sugars, so the bacteria that naturally forms in your mouth is experiencing a Renaissance when you partake in spirits and sweets. Bacteria is what causes tooth decay, so you can do the math from there.
So dry, the bugs don’t die
One of your body’s natural defenses against the bacteria in your mouth is the saliva in your mouth. It’s a natural bacteria sweeper upper. Can you take one guess what goes away when alcohol is consumed? You got it, saliva. All this means that the bacteria that causes tooth decay hangs on to your teeth longer than normal.
The walk of stain
Invariably alcohol stains teeth. Most people know this about red wine, but any alcohol—yes, even beer—is a tooth stainer. Chromogens give color to ingredients like barley. And when the alcohol in beer breaks down tooth enamel, those chromogens go to work on your teeth, giving a yellow or brown tone to your pearly whites.
When it comes to mixed drinks, whiskey and Coke is a top dog troublemaker. You have the sugars of both Ingredients, the acid of the cola and the dark colors forming a perfect storm of tooth trouble. On the opposite side of the spectrum is a gin and tonic. Since both are clear, you avoid the staining issues. But moreover, the low levels of acid keep the negative impact of the sugars at bay.
Smoking and joking
“I’m just a social smoker.” You probably know someone—maybe yourself—who considers their nicotine habit to be just casual. The problem is that your teeth don’t know the difference. When you drink you are more likely to smoke, and that means you are putting your teeth as well as your gums through—not the perfect storm—but a full on hurricane of bacterial attack.
Solutions to the dilutions
- Sip it with a straw. The sugars that slide down your throat are not the problem. It’s the ones that swish around your mouth that do the damage. You can reduce the amount of that swish considerably if you use a straw when you drink alcohol. OK, that’s tacky when sipping wine or drinking beer, but it’s par for the course when you enjoy cocktails and other mixed drinks.
- Hit the bathroom before the bed. As easy as it is to fall fully clothed face first on the bed after a night of many drinks, do your best to visit the bathroom first. Brushing and flossing will remove the sugars, and while you’re there, drink some water too. Your mouth and your entire body will feel much better when you do.
- Do the math. Not all alcohols are created equal, or at least with equal parts of sugar. Read labels, search online and use common sense. A lager beer and just about any fruity, mixer-based, multiple-alcohol, umbrella-toothpick blended drinks are two different animals.
- Water to the rescue. It’s a great idea to drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. It serves two purposes. First, it washes away the bacteria the way saliva would. Second, it helps you pace yourself and counteracts the effect of the alcohol.
Urban myth has a few other solutions, but they are in fact myths. For instance, citrus. Some people think that adding citrus to an alcoholic drink is adding vitamin C and natural disinfectant to a drink. In reality, it’s adding acid, which makes the sugar and bacteria impact more potent.
Another misnomer has to do with mixers. “It’s the mixers that contain all the unnatural amounts of sugar,” you may have heard. While mixers certainly add sugar content, taking them out of the mix will not mean what’s leftover isn’t packed with sugars. Alcohol is, in essence, fermented sugar.
One overlooked thing you can do to keep the impact of alcohol at its minimum is to have regular cleanings. Studies show that regular dental exams and cleanings keep plaque and tartar buildup at a minimum, even in heavy drinkers. That means when you indulge in your favorite elixirs, those sugars that linger around have less to latch onto. Contact DentaLux today to schedule your next cleaning.